There is something truly magical about Marrakech. The colorful souks, the hustle and bustle of the main square and the countless zellige mosaic tiles which adorn its architecture all make this place an absolute feast for the senses. I spent 6 nights in Marrakech in December/January. Here are my best things to see and do in Marrakech, along with a guide to the city.
Things to See and Do in Marrakech
For my things to see and do in Marrakech list, I am staring out with attractions on the North of the Medina and moving down to the South.
Jardin Majorelle or Majorelle Gardens is perhaps one of the most famous sites in Marrakech. This beautifully landscaped garden is filled with exotic plants, colorful fountains and cacti that looks almost otherworldly. The villa and fountains are painted in the brightest majorelle blue and sunny yellow, adding to the excoticness of this place.
Cost – 70 MAD
Dar El Bacha – Musée des Confluences
Formally a house belonging to the Pacha of Marrakech, this now museum is a beautiful example of Moorish architecture in Marrakech. The museum has several artifacts portraying Moroccan culture. However, from the walls to the floor to the gigantic columns, it’s really the zellige mosaic work that steals the show here.
Cost – 60 MAD
Le Jardin Secrets
This beautiful garden located on the North side of the Medina is a quiet respite from the chaos of the streets outside. Climb to the cafe on the roof terrace for commanding views of the gardens.
Cost – 70 MAD
The Medina and Souks
The Medina and souks should be on everyone’s things to see and do in Marrakech list. Medina in arabic means old town or old quarter. The Medina and the souks (market place) are definitely worth wandering. The narrow streets all painted a hue of terracotta is filled with so much action. From vendors selling all sorts of goods , to carts pulled by donkeys, the Medina and souk transposes you to a different time. Walk around, shop and get lost in all of its old time charm.
Place des Epices
A little open square in the heart of the Medina. Here you will see vendors selling spices, woven goods and tiny animals like baby turtles and chameleons. Life in this spot seems unmoved from ancient times.
If you get lost, ask for help from a shop keeper. The Marrakech Medina and souks are relatively small (compared to the one on Fez). Also google maps work really well within the Medina, even capturing the narrowest of streets.
HERE is a detailed guide on the Marrakech souks including what to buy and my top tips for an enjoyable experience.
Also check out my Morocco travel guide for tips on how to not get scammed for money by a stranger offering to help. HERE is the link.
Jemaa El Fna
The main square in Marrakech and a UNESCO Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. This thriving market place by day gets pretty dramatic by nighttime with performances, storytellers, musicians and various other entertainer who fill up the square. Thousands flock to this square every day and night but the best time to visit is at sunset.
If you ever get lost in the heart of Marrakech, look up and the minaret (tower of a mosque) of the Koutoubia will help you get your bearings right. Especially if you are trying to get out of Jemaa El Fna. Just walk in the direction of the Minaret to hail a taxi or get to the main road.
Although closed to non muslims, the grounds and the adjoining gardens are still worth walking around. You will also see excavated remains of the first mosque built here in the 12th century next to the mineret.
Set on a former royal estate dating from the 12th century, this luxury hotel is worth visiting even if you can’t afford to stay here (like me!) To get in you have to purchase food or alcohol. You will also have to leave any large purses or backpacks at the entrance so try not to bring anything bulky when you visit. I wandered through the vast grounds and looked around the beautiful hotel.
The Royal Mansour is the epitome of luxury in Marrakech. A night here costs several thousand dollars but afternoon tea however, is affordable!
Just when I thought it couldn’t eat anymore, they took me to a dessert bar to order a dessert of my choice!
Cost – $45 USD
Another famous site on this things to see and do in Marrakech list. This former palace is still well preserved and captures the essence of Moroccan architecture. Zellige tiles fill the lower walls and floors while stucco decorations fill the higher spaces. The sculpted and painted wooden ceilings are simply breathtaking.
Tip – I got here at 9.30 AM and got in without having to wait. When I exited an hour or so later there was a massive line of people waiting to buy tickets. The place opens at 9 AM so I suggest getting here early in the morning
Cost – 70 MAD
El Badi Palace
Badi Palace is a ruined palace in Marrakech now home to giant storks. This palace was built in the 16th century but was destroyed in the 18th century. The vast grounds, ponds and patches of tile work on the floor will give you a tiny glimpse into the splendor of the palace from back in the day. Climb up to the terrace to see great views of the city.
Cost – 70 MAD
Dar Si Said
Dar Si Said is a museum dedicated to folk art in Marrakesh and of the nearby Berber villages. It is also an beautiful example of zellige tile work.
Cost – 30 MAD
Saadians Tombs probably tops my things to do and see in Marrakech. This place took my breath away. Built in the 16th century, these tombs are the final resting place of the royal family of the Saadian dynasty. These tombs were long forgotten until they were rediscovered and restored starting from 1917.
Tip – Get here as early as possible. There are usually lines especially to see the Hall of the 12 Columns. I was there by 9.30 AM and there were maybe 10 people inside and I was able to spend all the time I wanted without having to stand in a line or rush through.
Cost – 70 MAD
Kasbah Mosque and Bab Agnaou
These 2 sites are close to Saadians tomb. The Kasbah mosque or Moulay El Yazid is one of the oldest mosques in Marrakech.
Bab Agnaou is one of the nineteen gates of Marrakesh, Morocco. It leads to the Royal Kasbah in the southern part of the medina of Marrakech. You will most probably pass this gate on your way to Saadians Tombs or El Badi Palace.
Highly recommend a hammam experience as part of your trip to Marrakech. A hammam is essentially a wet steam room where you can relax and exfoliate your skin. Marrakech has public as well as private hammams. More on this in a later post!
I didn’t get to explore the following places but they could be a part of your itinerary.
Menara Gardens – I had every intention of going here but ran out of time. These gardens with the Atlas mountains in the background are supposed to be beautiful at sunset.
Ben Yousef Madrasa – I was extremely disappointed about not visiting this Madrasa (Islamic school) because the architecture is supposed to be absolutely stunning! It has been closed for renovations now for 2 years and was supposed to open January 2020 but was still closed the 1st week of January.
Where to Stay
Part of the fun of planning a trip to Marrakech is deciding on where to stay. You will have the option of either staying in a hotel or a raid. While staying at a hotel can be fun and believe me Marrakech has some fine hotels like the Royal Mansour and La Mamounia, my recommendation is to stay in a riad. A riad is a type of traditional Moroccan house with an interior garden or courtyard. Most modern day riads will have a pool. They are smaller than hotels and have a few rooms, each one usually uniquely styled. Most also have lovely rooftop terraces that you can relax in or watch the sunrise or sunset.
Where I stayed
When it came to picking my Riad, I knew I wanted to stay at Riad BE. BE is a small Riad with 10 rooms at the North end of the Medina. It’s walking distances to the souks and most attractions. It is also walking distance to some of the restaurants that I visited (coming right up!)
BE has 2 central courtyards with pools. Both courtyards are beautifully decorated and it was honestly hard to step away from the riad.
HERE is the link to book this riad.
Riad El Walaa
El Walaa is located on the South side of the Medina and is a beautiful riad consisting of a swimming pool and a tastefully decorated rooftop. This riad is in a perfect location (especially close to the attractions on the South side of the Medina) and is only a 10 minute or less walk from Jemaa El Fna. I loved everything about this riad, especially the lovely and super helpful staff!
HERE is the link to book this riad.
Where to Eat
The food in Marrakech didn’t disappoint! Here are some of the places I ate at.
I got some great recommendations from my friend and fellow blogger Laura. I love food but Laura is a true foodie at heart. See her recommendations HERE.
Cafe Nomad – Overlooks Place des Epices and has several terraces to sit and watch the activities below. An eclectice menu featuring salads, tajines and sandwiches.
Café des Epices – Also at Place des Epices and run by the same company as Nomad with more or less the same type of menu. I personally think the view is perhaps better than Nomad.
Le Jardin – Get a table outside in the open garden and enjoy this beautiful oasis in the Medina. The food is really great too. Make a reservation beforehand, especially for dinner.
Restaurant L’Annexe – Amazing french cuisine and friendly staff in the new part of town. Highly recommend to make a reservation beforehand.
El Fenn – I had written this one down to see the sunset and it didn’t disappoint! The rooftop terrace is also great for stunning views of the Atlas Mountains. Laura recommends this place for food as well!
The next few are Laura’s recommendations
Dar Marjana – This restaurant was super close to riad BE and had the best kebabs I had on the trip! The food was SO good that I wanted to go back one more time. Oh! and there is also live entertainment!
Comptoir Darna – Both the food and service was fantastic! Also they have belly dancing starting at 10 PM. You have to make a reservation and can do so online.
Le Salama – Cocktails with sunset views. Off Jemaa El Fna. Good if you are looking for a break from all that hustle and bustle. The interior was beautifully decorated and I got a free cocktail on the house!
Getting Around Marrakech
Most attractions are relatively close to each other. Taxis are the best mode to use if you don’t want to walk or if the distance is not walkable.. Remember to always negotiate a price before getting in. Taxis are supposed to be metered but most won’t work. Vehicles like cars cannot go in to the Medina so you may have to get off at the nearest road and walk if you are going to the Medina. This is also true if your Riad is in the Medina. If you arrange transportation through your Riad, they may be there to greet you and walk you into the Riad.
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Check out my detailed Morocco Travel Guide below for more tips.